Gazette Archive 7/31/99
A book review: By Jim Barry
Title: The Great Birdhouse Book
My first impressions of this book, while I flipped through the pages, gave me the impression that this person lived near the sea because of his use of driftwood in many of the birdhouse projects. The author himself explains some of the ideas presented in the book as "...three dimensional weird stuff." While some may agree with this statement I think of his designs having an artistic flair with many inspiring ideas. Looking at many of the pictures I found myself saying over and over again, "Now that's a great idea." or "Now why didn't I think of that." It's obvious that he put a lot of effort into the book. There are two types of themes in this book related to the style of birdhouses. The first is functional style while the other is artistic style.
Some of the projects built with functionality in mind are unique. The use of driftwood and antlers for bird perches was an interesting idea which spurred my imagination. And the design of the bird houses was such they could easily blend into the natural environment of a cottage or cabin.
While other projects displayed were more of an artistic experiment, the uniqueness of the designs did get me wondering how he went about constructing them. These designs were meant, I believe, to be more for a conversation piece. And it is these designs that the author refers to as "three dimensional weird stuff".
The exploded view of the diagrams for building the projects are well thought out. They are simple to read and at the same time give the reader a clear picture of how the project can be constructed. These designs were not made with some fancy CAD software but drawn by hand. A lot of work and detail went into them, but it's detail that is easy on the eyes. Included are some very beautiful color photos taken of actual projects. Each project came with a list of tools and supplies required, as well as very clear and concise instructions in layman's terms - this leaves the ability to change the design giving the reader the chance to use their own imagination. The author leaves nothing out. He even includes the fact that you may need a damp rag to catch the glue drips.
There is also a table provided, which gives appropriate dimensions required for 20 types of wild birds. This is sourced from the "Homes for Birds" pamphlet , Fish and Wildlife Services, U.S. Department of the Interior. (I just did a quick search and found it on-line at http://www.fws.gov/r9mbmo/pamphlet/house.html). As well, there is a metric equivalency chart which would be an excellent source to any woodworker (similar to this chart - Metric Equivalency Chart, http://www.lavelle.com/std27.htm ). Also, the layout of the index is unique. Nothing like I've ever seen before. It's handy but the word "overkill " comes to mind.
So, is there a downside to this book? I've noticed just a couple. One is the fact that not all the pages are numbered. This has always been a pet peeve of mine which is found in many magazines and catalogues. Also, the three pictures of birdhouses on the front cover jacket of the book are those of the "three dimensional weird stuff". I would consider this one serious because I can honestly say that the cover would probably catch my eye at a book store but I probably would not pick it up. Had they put one or two of the functional birdhouses on the cover it would present a better offering of what's in between the covers. And lastly, my most favourite design of the birdhouse with antlers attached for a perch had no plans to go with it. However, it did provide inspiration and a visual source which I think is what the author intended.
In summary, with 28 designs included and a few more photos to spur your imagination, this book is a great visual resource and a good reference for bird house dimensions. Considering the charts are free on-line, the price of $24.95 (US) or $36.95 (CAN) I think is a bit pricey.
Editor's Note: Sterling Publishing has graciously donated several books for review which are passed on to our members free of charge. Thank You!